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To Greece

First New Zealand Troops in Greece

First New Zealand Troops in Greece

In Barbarity Force there were about 4000 men, half of whom came from the Royal Air Force and half from the Army. They had been collected very hastily, so hastily that General Freyberg did not know that on HMAS Sydney and SS Nieuw Zeeland there had been No. 3 Section 9 New Zealand Railway Survey Company (Captain Nevins1), which a week before had been quietly doing survey work in Palestine. As its arrival was immediately noticed by newspaper correspondents and radio commentators, the New Zealand Government naturally inquired as to the truth of their reports. Headquarters 2 NZEF, however, knew nothing about the movement because the railway companies were under the control of the Director-General of Transportation, Middle East. General Headquarters, Middle East, flatly contradicted the reports. The New Zealand Government made inquiries in London but nothing was known there about the surveyors. The news was repeated, further inquiries were made, and in December General Headquarters, Middle East, was apologising for its misinformation and admitting that a section had actually been sent to Greece. Thereafter the New Zealand Government insisted that Headquarters 2 NZEF or the High Commissioner in London had to be informed of the employment of New Zealand troops in any theatre of war in which 2 NZEF was not itself engaged.

page 92

The section worked about Piræus and New Phaleron, prepared camp sites, surveyed minor railway extensions, and finally a base depot to the west of Athens, at which it was working when the Germans eventually invaded Greece.

1 Maj T. H. F. Nevins; Wellington; born NZ 23 Nov 1903; civil engineer.